“Hunter River, P.E.I. March 14 -
Prince Edward Island’s oldest resident, Mr. William Bernard, died at his home here today following a brief illness of two days. He was in his 108th year. His sons, George and John Bernard, both in their eighties, are residents of O’Leary.” The Guardian, March 15, 1939.
Born in Devonshire, England on 24 January, 1832, Mr. Bernard came to the Island with his parents when seven years old. The family settled at Hunter River where they built the first log cabin in the district. The house in which Mr. Bernard died stands on the original site.
Mr. Bernard was a wheelwright by trade and built one of the first wharves in Charlottetown. He also worked on the railway.
Mr. Bernard, who was twice married, left a long line of descendants. He had 13 children, 44 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grand children. The grand old man’s recipe for a long life was always ‘plenty of good hard work and no worry and a little fun.
To this may be added William Bernard was a man of temperate habits. His sturdy physique, inherited from his stalwart British ancestors, may also be contributed as one of the reasons for his long span of years.
Living about one mile from the Hunter River Post Office, Mr. Bernard used to walk from his home to the village daily up until last fall. He retained to the last his mental and physical powers and his eyesight remained practically unimpaired. During the celebration of his 100th birthday in 1932, it was noted how remarkably alert and active he was. He did not give the impression he had passed the century mark.
An incident occurred on that evening which bore out his youthful appearance. Among the guests was a lady who had not previously known the Bernard family. She remarked on the absence of the old gentleman whom she had come to see. ‘The absent one’ had just passed in front of her, the better to see and hear the musicians in the adjoining room. When seen with one of his sons, John of O’Leary, Mr. Bernard had often been taken to be John’s son or brother, rather than his father. He walked with a keen, alert step. Much to his disgust, he carried a cane, although he said he “never did have any use for the damn thing.”
Within the past six years he laid a hardwood floor in one of the rooms of his aged house. He never was careful of his diet, eating the same meals as the rest of his family. According to his children, the old gentleman used to say he “never had any rheumatism or been sick a day of his life.”
The surviving sons and daughters are as follows: George and John Bernard, O’Leary, P.E.I; William, Henry, Walter, Silas and Mrs. Hannah Whitlock, Hunter River; and Mrs. Joseph Grant and Mrs. Joseph Lascard, Concord, New Hampshire, USA.
The first wife of Mr. Bernard, Margaret Proude of Loyalist, P.E.I. died in 1902. She was the mother of all his children. His second wife, Sarah Corney of Concord, New Hampshire, died in 1932.
Mr. William Bernard died at his home in Hunter River, P.E.I. on 14 March 1939 in his 108th year.